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WagerLab / Soccer  / Champions League Preview

Champions League Preview

Chelsea and Manchester City meet in the Champions League final on May 29th. Taking place in Porto, this is the second All-English final in three seasons, and the third all-time.

Champions League Prediction and Preview

Chelsea are playing in the biggest game in European soccer for the third time in their history – it’s the Blues’ first appearance on this stage since they won the competition in 2012.

Narrowly favored by the bookies, this is Manchester City’s first Champions League final outing. Pep Guardiola has long been chasing another Champions League triumph, having not reached the final since he left Barcelona.

City are Premier League champions. They are the better team on paper, and success in Europe is long overdue. One-off matches are not decided by squad depth or long-term dominance, though. This match in Porto, with fans returning, is a clash of two relatively even teams, of two of the world’s best managers.

Previous Meetings

Recent Chelsea vs Manchester City matches have shown how close they are. While City are clearly superior over the course of a season, Tuchel has twice got the better of Guardiola in the last few weeks. Chelsea have won three of the previous four meetings between the two sides, including a masterful performance in the FA Cup semifinal.

Chelsea have been able to lean on their defense in a way they couldn’t during Frank Lampard’s tenure. This was the bedrock of their previous successes against Manchester City, but there have been signs of defensive weakness of late. The Blues had lapses against Leicester and Arsenal, resulting in cup final defeat and a pivotal London derby loss.

Aside from a remarkable game against Brighton, Chelsea are the only team who have troubled City lately. Guardiola’s team have failed to win just five matches since December 19th, two of which have been against their Champions League final opponents.

Where most factors point to this being a City win, the previous matches between the two give Chelsea legitimate hope of becoming European champions for a second time.

Tactical Battle

Real Madrid made the mistake of matching up Chelsea’s back three in the semifinal. Guardiola has a knack for overthinking matches of this size, and there’s clearly some high-level chess being played between the two managers.

Tuchel outthought Guardiola in the cup semifinal. Despite City having the majority of possession, Chelsea limited them to low-percentage chances, and the front three of Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Mason Mount was too mobile for City’s defense. The Blues could have made many more chances than they did.

Although it would be out of the ordinary for City this season, Guardiola could look to matchup with the back three.

City have the personnel and tactical nous to make such a change, but it’s a risk. Zinedine Zidane played into Chelsea’s hands when he made such a switch. City are best off when they can play how they want to, and it would be an unnecessary gamble for Guardiola to break away from the football that’s made them Premier League winners once again.

Both managers have an array of options at their disposal. Regardless of Tuchel’s plans at wing-back or up front, the fitness of N’Golo Kante is the most important factor for Chelsea. If Kante can replicate his performances from the previous matches and against Real Madrid, Chelsea have a real chance.

Chelsea vs Manchester City Final Prediction

Despite the hundreds of millions worth of creative and goal scoring talents, this is going to be a tight game.

Chelsea haven’t scored more than twice in a game against City since 2016. Tuchel’s team will prioritize limiting chances. Betting under 2.5 total goals is going to be popular, and many will look towards a draw at full-time.

This could be the first Champions League final to go to an extra 30 minutes since 2015/16.

With where the odds are right now, Chelsea are the better bet, but this is such a difficult match to call.

Chelsea vs Manchester City Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City (AET)

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